Playwright and human rights campaigner told to leave UK

A ROCHDALE-based playwright and her husband have been told to leave the UK.

The Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) has told Lydia Besong and Bernard Batey, a human rights campaigner, that they must go back to Cameroon.

The couple have been living in the UK ever since they fled the African country on 17 December 2006. They left after they were tortured and raped because they were members of freedom fighting liberation organization the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC).

On Thursday 29 October 2009 Besong and Batey returned from work to find the ‘go home’ letter from the BIA and are terrified about what may happen to them if they return to Cameroon.

Local politicians and faith leaders are now supporting the couple in their attempt to stay in Britain.

Paul Rowen, Besong and Batey’s MP, said: “I believe Bernard and Lydia have a genuine case for political asylum and I don’t say that about every case I see.”

Reverend Graham Lindley, Parish Priest at St Anne’s Church, Belfield, Rochdale, is backing the couple to the hilt. He is calling on the Home Office to grant them leave to remain in this country.

Former Rochdale MP Sir Cyril Smith is also backing Lydia and Bernard’s case and wrote to the Home Secretary on their behalf.

Besong is set to have her debut play ‘How I Became an Asylum Seeker’ staged by Community Arts Northwest (CAN) at the Zion Theatre in Hulme, Manchester, on Thursday 3 December 2009.

One of the reasons she wrote the play was to find a way of coping with the horrors of what had happened to her, and also to raise awareness and educate people about asylum.

She is now part of the management committee of Woman Asylum Seekers Together (WAST).

Batey has been leading for the national award-winning human rights organisation RAPAR in a partnership with Revive, Changemakers, Boaz Trust and Citizens for Sanctuary. Together, the couple have opened Manchester’s first voucher exchange network.

Jasmine Ali, CAN’s lead artistic manager, said: “I have been working closely with Lydia over the last few months to help her produce a short play that she has written which highlights important issues faced by women asylum seekers in the UK. Lydia has been an inspiration for the artistic team with her dedication and commitment to the project. Without her contribution WAST would not have had the confidence to devise and perform their play to a wider audience.”

Besong has also been working with RAPAR and Commonword to collect stories about people in Manchester who are destitute.

Pete Kalu, Commonword’s artistic director, said: “Lydia has been a tremendous resource in helping us to find new pathways to new writers in communities.”

Send messages of support to Lydia and Bernard c/o RAPAR 6 Mount Street Manchester M2 5NS or email admin@rapar.org.uk

And send your ‘Lydia and Bernard must stay’ message, quoting Lydia Ebok Besong & Bernard Oben Batey HO Ref: B1236372, to CITTO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk, and Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, while cc-ing admin@rapar.org.uk

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